Rod Drury wrote an interesting post over on his blog about what he would do if in charge of Microsoft. Have a read of the post – here’s the link:

http://www.drury.net.nz/2008/05/24/if-i-was-in-charge-2/

But as much as I agree with nearly all his points, I wanted to expand on point number 15 about assigning a design dictator. Here’s the comment (or essay) I posted on Rod’s blog. I decided to repost here as it ties in with some other topics both Diversity and Julian101 are covering. Here’s my thoughts on the ‘Design Dictator’ comment…

Re: Number 15. The comments about the design dictator and rebranding. Whilst I think it’s a great idea, it’s not quite that simple in reality. if you really wanted to rebrand Microsoft here’s what I’d do.

Question is… Who’s got big enough kahunas to make this happen?

1. RENAME ‘MICROSOFT’ TO ???

Lets face it – it’s a lame name these days. And the name carries too much baggage – period! No amount of design will erase the memories of the past. It may take a decade or two of turmoil, but new generations coming through will appreciate and accept the new brand. And this is a multigenerational corporation so rebranding needs to be though out as such.

2. CHOOSE THE DESIGN DICTATOR WISELY! Trust them and step back!

Microsoft shouldn’t ’seek’ the designer. This would amount to ‘old thinkers’ choosing who to represent them – not a good idea. A third party should be appointed to find the designer. A hard task, and it could take some time, even years, but if this step is rushed, all could be lost – there would be one shot at this, so for the future of the company it would need to be the right person. Someone prepared to die for the company in order for it to live. Redesigning MS would be a few decades work so that’s a fair chunk of life to commit!

It can’t be a ‘Multiyear Contract Job’ for the designer. Look at Steve Jobs – it has their passion, nothing else – just that job and a pile of love!

3. DESIGN IS AS MUCH ABOUT CULTURE AS IMAGERY.

Let’s face it – Apple has great design, but also great culture. If Microsoft just rebranded, did a few screens and box shots (a few thousand…) all it would be is a facade. Cool people buy Apple Products. Nerds and geeks buy Microsoft products. Yes it’s a generalization – but 90% of the world’s population would probably agree. See the problem?

You can make cool products and branding for Microsoft but you’ll find it near impossible to shift entrenched Apple users from their stunning gear – this is because they love the gear, culture and Steve (God). So that means Microsoft would need to compete with Apple by not grabbing Apple’s customers, but rather taking their current users and trying to sell them ‘Cool Microsoft Rebranded Stuff’.

Hmmm.. Ever tried to make the nerd at school look good for the nightclub? He’s bright, he’s intelligent, he ‘does the job’ but despite putting him in baggy lowriders and a hoodie, he’s still a nerd. You can make a duck wear a tie, but he’s still a duck.

Or simply put, You can rebrand Microsoft, but you can’t reculture Microsoft users 😉

4. VIRAL SPREAD

To be effective with a rebrand you need to impact the ‘design culture’ of Microsoft. Apple does so well partly because it releases a ‘cool toy’, their fans love it, buy it and most importantly ‘talk about it’ to other people. Great design spreads virally, but ONLY when the customers CARE about the design. Here’s the problem that reinforces my ‘Design Culture’ comments. Ready? Here it comes…

“Apple users CARE” – “Microsoft users USE”.

For example; Rod loves his Apple gear so he blog about it, Twitters about it, Allows people in the street to touch it etc. This is Great marketing for apple – It’s free!.

Microsoft could rebrand but would they have the same viral spread? I’d bet anything that they’d have a lot less viral spread than Apple if the rebrand was good. But if it was bad they’d have a HUGE viral outlash, and worse – it’d be ammo for Apple who, as history tell us like to get the boot into Microsoft at any chance – good on them too! if MS had some balls they’d take a few decent shots at Apple!

IN SUMMARY…

These are some initial thoughts on the issue. I’ll sum up though by saying that I believe rebranding Microsoft has to happen at two levels. Firstly, start to change the company culture from within for a few years – shake up the business by taking shots online at Apple, then secondly (and ONLY when the culture starts to shift) CHANGE THE NAME AND BRAND – RELAUNCH THE BUSINESS! Not just the design!

if done right, a relaunch of a company of this size could be the biggest thing to ever happen online! Once and for all it would lay the Microsoft baggage and history to rest.

Author: Julian Stone – www.Julian101.com / www.proworkflow.com

Julian Stone

Julian Stone here, CEO of www.proactivesoftware.com, developers of www.proworkflow.com (Project management software). I’m a chronic serial creative thinker and have a passion for creativity, business and entrepreneurship. Since the early days at school til the current adult days I’ve been involved with many businesses, in many forms, but the real passion I have is designing ideas from scratch and seeing them through to completion. I love startup businesses and their associated challenges; the fact that the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know! Every day is an opportunity to meet a new person, learn a new skill, tackle a new challenge! My personal background is 15yrs in graphic design, ad agencies, 3d animation, video editing, multimedia, print, prepress and other creative persuits. About 1999 I was made redundant, mostly due to a failing internet company I was working for at the time. It was also about the time of many ‘.com boms’ where many startups failed due to a distinct lack of any real business plans, paths to revenue or just crazy and unrealistic business ideas. I saw from the inside out, what happens when a company collapses. It was messy, complicated and a lot of people were hurt, both emotionally and financially. However, amidst all this came a blessing! I met my wife, Sarah, who was was also working for the company. Out on the street at age 25 and not many jobs available, it was ’sink or swim’. I chose to ’swim’, and started contracting initially, then business, and haven’t looked back. There have been hard years, and I’ve learned a lot, but heading down the business path rather than employee path was the best decision I’ve made career-wise. I’ve surrounded myself with many like-minded friends and look forward to an exciting ride ahead! This blog is designed to discuss my thoughts on matters (yes, I’m very opinionated) and to share lessons I’ve learned from people, books, experience or the school of life. ;-)

2 Comments
  • Jobs summed it up (search youtube) when he said that Microsoft have no taste.

    It’s true: they have no taste, and Jobs does.

    When I say no taste, Jobs doesn’t just mean they have slightly wayward design sense. No, they have no style whatsoever.

    So that needs fixing.

    I don’t think a re-brand is necessary, as all the new brand will do is take on the attributes of the old one.

    No, Microsoft needs to start again. Even with one, well-designed, innovative, secure and universally-helpful piece of software would be a start.

    But guess what? The culture is so deep that it won’t happen.

  • > When I say no taste, Jobs doesn’t just mea

    No, I’m not Jobs in disguise (can you tell?)

    When Jobs says they have no taste, he doesn’t just mean …

    :O)

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